David Levinson has gotten himself drunk. And why not? It looks like the world is about to end.
It’s a scene from the 1996 movie “Independence Day.”
Levinson, portrayed by Jeff Goldblum, is an MIT grad and a space expert, but he is content to work at a small public TV station, ride his bike to work, and pick up every discarded plastic bottle he can find and bring it to the recycling bin.
He’s been divorced for a couple of years but cannot bring himself to take off his wedding ring.
When he discovers a gigantic alien mothership and a bunch of her “children” have entered the earth’s atmosphere and are hell-bent on destroying the planet, he winds up assisting the president of the United States (played by Bill Pullman) and in doing so coming in close contact with his ex-wife, Constance (Margaret Colin), now the White House communications director. Yes, she’s a pretty big deal.
Constance walks in on her ex-husband in his inebriated state and they get into a heated discussion about what went wrong in their marriage. Speaking to his seeming lack of ambition, she pleads, “Didn’t you ever want to be part of something special?”
“G-damnit,” he bellows, slamming his can of beer on a metal table, “I was!”
As do many, his ex-wife perceived the only way for something to be special is to be on a big stage, under a big spotlight. And she was so wrong.
In truth, something special is often just the opposite. It’s small, and intimate, and largely unnoticed except by those experiencing it.
Something special, as we in Greater Pittston know, is living in a small town.
Something special is something my son often points out to me when I tell him I’ve been hanging out with a fella he and my daughter affectionately call “Uncle Mart.” He’s Martin Sowa, my close friend since seventh grade.
“Dad,” my son will say. “You have something I will never have. You have friends you’ve stayed close with for 50 or 60 years. I’ll never have that.”
My son has moved around. At 30, he’s lived, in addition to Northeast Pennsylvania for his first nine years, in New Jersey; Savannah, Georgia; Boulder, Colorado; Chicago and now Los Angeles.
“I make friends,” he says. “Close friends. But I won’t get to pal around with them all my life.”
I’m pleased that Michael makes this observation, that he “gets it,” but actually, he doesn’t know the half of it. The “something special” feeling that comes with living in the same small town all your life has a warmth, a sense of comfort, a backdrop of love, and kindness and caring that is unimaginable to anyone who has not been fortunate enough to live it.
As I’ve said before, I rarely deal with anyone — whether buying insurance, getting my car inspected, having my teeth cleaned or my hair cut, picking up sausage for the grill, paying my property taxes, or taking my wife out for a dinner — that I have not known or been connected to for 50 years or more. Rarely do I have to introduce myself to anyone, or does anyone have to introduce themselves to me, and if it does happen it’s usually followed by one of us exclaiming, “Oh, I know you!”
The fondness we feel for one another is evident everywhere, in conversations as people linger in the parking lot after Sunday morning services, or in the long lines at funeral homes as we gather to pay our respects and offer our condolences. Out-of-towners who relocate here typically are awe-stricken at the crowds at funerals. How people who’ve spent their whole lives in one place deal with death is foreign to them.
So, too, is how we deal with life.
You can find tiny glimpses of this at the donut shops and diners dotting the region, next to the treadmills at Planet Fitness, at the Tomato Bar or the Red Mill Tavern, at Tony’s Wine Cellar on a Wednesday night, or Sabatelle’s Market on a Saturday morning, at Palazzo’s or the Gramercy most any evening, at Callahan’s on Main most any midday, at Agolino’s in West Pittston during breakfast, lunch or dinner, or at Cebula’s in Dupont on a Friday night.
And you can find it on a larger scale at the many firefighters’ and church festivals throughout the year — such as the Italian Festival this weekend at St. Joseph Marello Parish in Pittston, at any event of the Women’s Network of the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce, at the 103-year-old annual Greater Pittston Friendly Sons of St. Patrick Dinner, at the hard to fathom Paint Pittston Pink spectacle each fall, at the Pittston Tomato Festival, of course, and again in all its glory at this coming Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Part of something special?
Dear Lord, we’re all part of something so special it almost makes me want to cry.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.